For weeks, trade rumors flew out of ballparks like home runs in 1998. The names and stakes got bigger and bigger. It might be, it could be: Manny Ramirez to the New York Mets?
Here came Sunday's 4 p.m. ET trade deadline like a bullet off Manny's bat. And unbelievably...
Almost nothing happened.
Oh, yeah: Except that the Boston Red Sox won their second straight World Series.
That's right, the monumental move of the day was the one the Red Sox did not make. Man, oh, Manny: Trading Ramirez would have gone down as the worst deal in Boston sports history since the Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees. Merely dangling him on the market was shockingly stupid.
Or was it?
Maybe I'm giving the Boston brass too much credit here. But I believe it staged a little trade charade just to use a little child psychology on Manny, who's 33 going on Sesame Street.
Of course, Manny asks to be traded the way a spoiled child threatens to run away if he feels he isn't getting enough attention. At least once a summer for the last four seasons, Manny has demanded to be dealt.
So this time, general manager Theo Epstein floated his name out there, knowing full well this story soon would be bigger news than the "War of the Worlds" invasion. Somewhere, Dakota Fanning was shrieking.
The same fans and teammates who had cursed Manny for dogging it and sitting out even though the team had lost Trot Nixon were suddenly faced with a be-careful-what-you-curse-for reality: You mean Manny actually could be ... gone?
More important, Manny's bluff was called. You don't have enough privacy in Boston, amigo? You'll attract far less attention playing for the off-Broadway team in New York?
Of course, owner John Henry remembers when Manny called him and begged not to be shipped to Texas for Alex Rodriguez. Henry knows Manny's love-hate relationship with Boston is mostly love. Henry knew the Manny-to-the-Mets hysteria would again force a left fielder with the attention span of a second-grader to suddenly remember all the great things about playing baseball in Boston.
On cue, Manny walked into manager Terry Francona's office before Sunday's game and interrupted his daily session with beat reporters to make this announcement: He wants to stay in Boston and win another World Series.
Of course, by then the deal was dead. But was it ever really alive?
Oh, sure, if some team had gone nuts and offered a young ace for Manny -- while taking on every penny of the more than $64 million left on his contract through 2008 -- the Boston brass might have pulled the trigger. If, say, the Cubs had thrown Mark Prior at Boston or even if the White Sox had agreed to part with Mark Buehrle...
Stranger things have happened. But not this time.
Obviously, the reported deals on the table would have been worse than trading the Green Monster (Manny's home away from home) for Tal's Hill, that bush-league rise near the center-field wall at Houston's Minute Maid Park. Manny Ramirez for Mike Cameron and Aubrey Huff was highway robbery enough before Tampa Bay insisted on Boston's top offensive prospect (Hanley Ramirez) and top pitching prospect (Jon Lester) to complete the three-team deal.